The Benny Joy Story 1957-61: Crash the Party
Benny Joy was one of the umpteen rockabilly acts who enjoyed some regional success in the 1950s but never broke though to nationwide recognition, only to be embraced by rockabilly collectors decades later. The Florida-based Joy (born Benny Eidson) cut a handful of solid rockers such as "Spin the Bottle" and "Button Nose" that are the stuff of legend among rockabilly fanatics, along with some fine moody numbers like "I'm Doubtful of Your Love," before leaving performing behind for a career as a Nashville songwriter, where he penned tunes for the likes of Marty Robbins, Mel Tillis, and Johnny Rivers. One of Joy's biggest supporters is Billy Miller, singer with the A-Bones and founder of Norton Records; the A-Bones released an entire album of Benny Joy material in 1996, and now Miller lets the man speak for himself on Crash the Party: The Benny Joy Story 1957-1961, an expansive three-CD set that collects Joy's rare single sides along with a treasure trove of alternate takes, home recordings, demo tapes, and unreleased material. While the titles suggest that Benny Joy's tunes were typical teen fare of the era, "Crash the Party," "Button Nose," "Rollin' to the Jukebox Rock," and "Miss Bobby Sox" are all tougher stuff than that, with lyrics that took the rites of teen passage seriously as Joy makes the most of his intense vocal style, reinforced by the hot guitar work of his sidekick Big John Taylor ("Button Nose" and "Hey High School Baby" sound almost lascivious all these years later). Joy also wrote or co-wrote all but eight of the 76 tracks on this set (Taylor composed the rest), and his skill with both melodies and lyrics is impressive, with this wealth of material sounding remarkably consistent in its effortless cool. Crash the Party has been sequenced for feel rather than historical chronology, so Joy's original singles are scattered among the outtakes' scratchy-sounding demo acetates and home-recorded tapes, so folks hoping for a concise picture of Joy's career will have to do some digging. But all three discs reveal their share of welcome surprises, and Joy's songs are strong enough that hearing them in a variety of different contexts never gets tiresome. If Crash the Party is almost more Benny Joy than most folks would want or need, the music (and Miller's fine liner notes) leaves no doubt that he clearly deserved the stardom that eluded him in his lifetime, and this is easily the definitive celebration of the man and his music; crank this up and let that jukebox rock!